September 15th, 2015
You are ready for couples therapy. Things in your marriage need to get better soon, and you need help. You know that you cannot do it alone. But your husband seems horrified at the idea. He avoids the topic whenever you bring it up, and you have endured more than a few eye rolls.
You are not alone. Men in relationships are usually the ones who resist therapy, and there are plenty of reasons why:
- From my experience, men resist going to therapy because they feel they will be blamed for all the wrong in the relationship. And I understand: Who wants to pay someone to tell them what is wrong with them and their relationship? Nobody.
- Men take pride in being able to take care of their partner and families. If there is a problem, they tend to internalize and worry they are “less of a man” because they feel they cannot take care of their own problems. They worry that they cannot “fix it” on their own.
- Being vulnerable is tough and being vulnerable in front of a stranger is tougher. In our society, we do not encourage our men to share their feelings. We encourage them to be strong and to hide emotion — because emotion is seen as a sign of weakness in a man.
These are the three main reasons why men resist the idea of coming to couples therapy. I know that is frustrating for a lot of women. And sometimes women will go to extremes to get their partners into therapy. But before you do, I want you to know that it’s not a good idea. Don’t tell him that you are going to leave if he doesn’t go to therapy, because no one likes an ultimatum. And don’t say, “Just do it for me,” because he has to do it for himself. Here are my suggestions for getting him to want to go see a therapist.
Catch Them With Honey
Talk with your husband in a gentle and loving way. No matter if you are fuming inside, be kind. You know you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. If your husband still refuses, then calmly say, “I understand. I still think I will start individual therapy so I can work on myself. Maybe that will give me some insight into how I can make our relationship better.” This one little statement has gotten countless men into therapy. That’s because it takes the pressure off of them. Now they feel you have accepted some of the responsibility, and in reality, that is all they want.
The Goal Isn’t Blame, It’s Happiness
Most of my male clients come into my office nervous, frowning and withdrawn, but by the time they leave, they are laughing. I have kicked one misconception out of the room: that to be vulnerable is to be weak. I tell my male clients that every woman wants a strong man but they also want a compassionate one. So if they follow my path, I will show them how to do both and have their partner bragging about them. This usually puts a smile on their faces. In my therapy sessions, I am not there to pick a side. I am there to seek the truth and get the couple on the same team, which is “team happiness.”
No matter your differences, we all have one common goal. With one common goal, we can do the handwork together. I tell my female clients that if you always beat down your man, why would he want to talk to you? Why would he bring you flowers? Why would he be romantic? If you are being controlling and demanding…well, who wants to have sex with their mother? Nobody. It is time to give your man the benefit of the doubt, even if he has disappointed you in the past. Couples therapy is a new beginning of forgiveness and commitment for both partners.
The other thing that your man needs to know: I don’t beat around the bush, and I will call wives out on their stuff too. I am able to speak up for husbands while I speak up for their wives. They see that I truly do not take sides and that I am not interested in male bashing. I am on their team, the “happiness team.” They respect me for my honesty.
It’s Not All Touchy Feely
Some men have a difficult time talking about their emotions. Like I said earlier, we have not taught men that it’s OK to be vulnerable. Yes, during my therapy sessions, I admit that we do talk about feelings. But that is not all we talk about. Feelings are important, but taking action to make change is another area we address in therapy. I am a solution-focused therapist, which means my goal is to help you create solutions to your problems. Men can relate to this because they are natural “fixers,” so we connect on this level. We can talk about what is wrong until we are blue in the face, but until we start finding solutions, nothing will change.
Bring Him Into the Process
Let him know he has a say in the therapist you choose. Don’t just book an appointment and send a text to your partner letting him know his has an appointment tomorrow at 10am. It may sound strange, but it happens. In fact, I have had men show up in my office looking completely confused because they thought they were going to have lunch! Your partner needs to be on board. If you force him into therapy, it will not be successful. To be effective, it takes two people who are willing to give therapy a chance.
That is why you should let him know that if he does not like therapy, you both do not have to go back. You want him to know therapy is a way for you to talk to someone about how you both can make your relationship better. Tell him that it is not about changing him. It is about making things better.
Many of my male clients are totally surprised by couples therapy. Mostly, they are surprised by how much they get out of it. I have women come in and say, “He has been counting down the days until we come back, so he can tell on me!” or “He has been quoting you all week… ‘Suntia said this’ and ‘That is not what Suntia told you to do.’” This is because I make my male clients feel empowered to change, not by demanding it, but by giving them a choice. I give them a choice to save their marriage or let it sink.
I help my male clients find their voice to say how they feel and what they want. I ensure that they never feel like a “baby,” as many of my male clients describe how they feel when asking for they want. They feel like they are whining. I let them know, “Your wife is asking a lot of you and you have the right to ask the same of her.” It is a partnership, not a dictatorship. No one gets to rule over the other.
Have we convinced your partner that couples therapy can help make your home happier and your relationship healthier? If you want a therapist who is a cheerleader for happiness for both you and your partner, you can contact me at (864) 559-8181 to schedule your appointment. I can help individuals and couples in the Greenville, SC area.